Acer ICONIA A700 HD Tablet First Look

Ever since the release of the new iPad back in March, the rest of the tablet world has been conspicuously quiet, with only a few major announcements amongst the seemingly unbreakable stranglehold Apple continues to have on the tablet market. Shortly though, the new A700/701 Acer Iconia Tablet may be one of the first shots fired in response to Apple’s latest release.

Although we haven’t seen much information come out about Acer’s Full HD display tablet, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on an early pre-production model for a few hours of hands-on experience. This new Acer Iconia Tablet, known as the A700 Wifi or 701 3G, is Acer’s answer to the new iPad’s high pixel density offering, and as far as Android tablets go, Acer have pretty much shoehorned everything they possible could to go up against the incumbent.

The A700 Acer Iconia Tablet is the first Android tablet we've seen with a Full HD display, and we're pretty impressive.

On paper, the A700 Acer Iconia tablet sounds pretty impressive. Tegra 3 quad core processor, GPS, Android 4.0 off the bat, and all the connectivity you’d want – Bluetooth, Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB, Micro-SD card slot, and for the A701 3G variant, a SIM card slot.

The big news for this yet-to-be-revealed Acer Iconia Tablet is the display. This is the first Full HD Android tablet that we’ve had an opportunity to spend quality time with and the 1920 x 1200 screen does look fantastic. Like the new iPad, individual pixels are not visible to the naked eye, and even the home screen pops out in comparison to previous Android models that employ the standard 1200 x 800 display.

We tried out some HD content and it looked superb on the A701 Acer Iconia Tablet display. Of course, one feature consistent across Android tablets is the native widescreen display that lends itself to video content with minimal black bars, and at this pixel density, movies should look incredible.

As this was a pre-production model, we didn’t subject this new Acer Iconia Tablet to any rigorous testing. In fact, it’s only just been reported that this model has gone through FCC approvals. This was really just an opportunity to share what may be the first of many premium Android tablets to hit the market this year. As a pre-production model we were pretty impressed, and we’re looking forward to spending more time with the models when they hit the street.

Look out for our next article, where we compare the A700 with the new iPad to see how the Full HD Android model stacks up against the most popular tablet in the market. Until next time, let us know what your thoughts are on Acer’s latest entry to their line-up of Android tablets.

iPad Compared to the Acer A700 Android HD Tablet

Here at Ritchie’s Room we love creating content based on what our viewers and readers suggest. We knew even before we posted our article on the upcoming A700 Iconia Tablet from Acer that the first request would be to pit it against the new iPad – after all, this is the first Android Tablet with a Full HD display with we’ve had in our hands since the CES earlier this year. So here it is – the iPad compared to the Acer Iconia A700 video.

Knowing the A700 that Acer provided us was a pre-production model, we have stayed away from any performance-based tests that may be skewed by the fact this unit is not retail-ready, which would produce an unfair results. For this segment we kept the iPad compared to the A700 on a physical, display and connectivity level.

Still, having the iPad compared to the A700 made for interesting work as the A700 is the first model that we’ve had in studio since the release of the new iPad, and the Full HD display is a defining battleground now because of Apple’s absolutely eye-blowing display.

The iPad compared favourably against the A700 in some areas. It was lighter (642 vs 705 grams), thinner (9.4 vs 10.9), and both had a very different design. The iPad has a natural portrait holding position whereas the Acer is definitely designed to be held in landscape.

When the iPad compared to the Acer A700 in terms of display, we were in two minds about the result. Apple’s pixel density comes to an incredible 264 pixels per inch, versus the Acer’s 224 pixels per inch. But the question is, how much more does a tablet need to be, especially ones with the screen ration of the Android models. After all, at 10.1 inches the 1900 x 1200 display is already free of visible pixels. Text looks sharp, and movies, at this stage anyway, can’t look any better at their native Full HD definition.

With the new iPad compared to Acer's latest tablet offering, we find Acer pulling no stops in connectivity and display.

Of course, when we looked at the iPad compared to the Acer A700 in terms of ports, the A700 was light years ahead. Direct connection to flat panel TV via Micro-HDMI, memory expansion via micro-SD card and file transfers via Micro-USB are elements of Android tablets that might not win over Apple loyalists, but are appreciated by Android users.

As we’ve said many times before though, the hardware is only part of the story, and with Apple’s closed ecosystem it needs t be a compelling argument to extract users from that environment. However innovation, open connectivity, diverse manufacturer support base and an ever growing content library may yet make products like the A700 a success in the overall tablet market.

What are your thoughts? With the iPad compared to the A700, would you switch to Acer’s latest Iconia Tablet offering?

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabooks Hit Stores, We Produce an Unboxing Video

 

ACER Aspire S3 Ultrabook side on

ACER Aspire S3 Ultrabook only 13mm thick very impressive.

After all the hype, the teasing, and the anticipation, the first Ultrabooks have arrived in store, and it’s Acer that have scored the launch coup once again with their Aspire S3 Ultrabook debuting before any other supplier.

Acer are starting to make this a habit, being the first to introduce Honeycomb 10 inch tablets into retail, and then the first 7 inch tablets with the Honeycomb operating system.

The first model to land is the entry model, which has a retail price of $1,199 and comes with an Intel Core i3 processor, a 320GB hard drive and a 20GB SSD for OS and caching, which helps it achieve the fast wake up that Ultrabooks have so spectacularly demonstrated. Three more models are expected shortly – an i5 with hard drive/SSD combo like the i3, and two SSD-only models in i5 and i7 configurations.

Intel will be very happy to see these finally make the light of day, as this form factor and performance benchmark is expected to make a large contribution to their mix of products over the coming months, and with good reason. These Ultrabooks place more emphasis on design and user-focused appeal than on pure specification-driven models, and present themselves in sleek, thin packages that are very pleasing on the eye.

More brands are expected to release their own offers soon, but in the meantime feast your eyes on this unboxing video that we’ve produced for Bing Lee.

 

Will you be heading in to see an Ultrabook in the flesh for yourself? Feel free to leave your personal impressions below.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook – First Look

The age of the Ultrabooks is upon us, and we have the first example of this new category of mobile PC from Acer. At today’s launch, we had a hands-on look at this very thin and impressively light model nicknamed the Aspire S3, and known as the AS3951 through Acer’s formal naming convention.

 

The model that we had an opportunity to get intimate with had an Intel Core i7 low voltage processor, clocked at 1.7GHz with a Turbo boost of 2.8GHz. This particular machine had 4GB of RAM with a 240GB solid state drive.

 

The “thin and light” aspect of the Acer Ultrabook definitely lived up to expectations – only 1.3cm thick, and 1.4kg in weight. When not in use, the lid has an attractive aluminium surface that didn’t appear to pick up fingerprints – one thing glossy finishes can be guilty of.

 

There are no vents on the bottom of this Ultrabook; instead heat is dissipated through a vent at the back of the unit just below the power button. This keeps the underside from overheating – a handy feature considering this would be a very mobile device and will probably spend some time on the user’s lap.

 

Inputs and outputs are kept to a minimum. There is a SD/MMC card reader on the right hand side, and headphone socket on the left hand side. At the back are all the other connections: power, HDMI and two USB ports. As with all Ultrabooks, the Acer S3 has eschewed an optical drive in favour of its slimmer dimensions.

 

Ultrabooks are Intel’s answer to the burgeoning tablet market, and here are two areas they intend to compete head-to-head: battery life and power-up time. We started up the S3 and the SSD delivered an impressive 20 second boot-up time. When coming out of sleep it was almost negligible – if you were distracted by something out the window and looked away, by the time you looked back at the screen it would have been ready for you.

Battery life was quoted by Acer as being around 7 hours, but the eyebrow-raising figure was the standby time claimed – up to 50 days.

The island-style keyboard and integrated touchpad/clickpad kept in with the minimalist theme that the S3 was conveying. LED lights were absent with the exception of two subtle blue indicator LEDs next to the power button.

 

This was my first personal experience with an Ultrabook, and I walked away quite impressed. It’s more than a glorified netbook, and can hold its own against traditional notebooks. It’s not a direct tablet alternative in that the tablet OS and app ecosystem has its own advantages and indeed Acer’s own Iconia speaks to that market segment.

Some of the S3’s tablet-like characteristics could be attractive to that group of users that are more demanding of their devices, and indeed the Ultrabook may be their workhorse PC of choice, as it offers long battery life, instant on and high performance all wrapped in a cool, statement-making chassis.

Ultrabooks will definitely be compared to the MacBook Air, and for those that need or like to use Windows, that comparison will be a fair one. PC manufacturers such as Acer (and Toshiba & Asus, hopefully to be seen locally soon) will have a new category of portable PCs that both perform and look the part.

 

The Acer S3 is due to be released mid-October, with pricing and configurations to be confirmed shortly.

Will you be upgrading your current notebook to an Ultrabook? Feel free to comment below..

Ultrabooks: Thin Is In

You may not know it yet, but notebooks will be going through a revolution in the next 12 months. A new class of mobile PC will emerge: thin, light, style-focused and high-performing.

A women measuring her waistline

We've been concerned about our waistline for years and now it seems we also want thinner notebooks.

Fuelled by advancements and competitive innovation from both AMD and Intel, notebooks have ramped up in performance and specifications, but with the exception of a few, haven’t really shed their traditional notebook dimensions or basic characteristics such as boot up time and battery life. At the same time, tablets have become a mainstream product that can replace a notebook for some tasks.

The Ultrabook range, coined by Intel, addresses some of these issues affecting the notebook market. Although netbooks were the more mobile and lighter version of its notebook sibling, they are limited to a smaller screen and fitted to more basic PC tasks. Ultrabooks are designed to deliver the full PC experience, with the core propositions of “thin” and “light” manifesting themselves in stylish, eye-catching designs.

Ultrabooks will be the portable PC you want to use, and be seen using. The casual look-at-me email or Facebook check at a café will never have been more popular once these machines start making their way into the market.

There’s no doubt that notebooks are the best value they’ve ever been, and from a “bang for buck” perspective there’s never been a better time to upgrade if you feel the need to. But with longer battery times, an “always on” state similar to tablets, and a burning desire to reveal your sleek Ultrabook at every opportunity, you may find the attraction too hard to resist.

Intel are predicting that Ultrabooks will make up 40% of the consumer notebook market by the end of next year, with each successive Intel chip development driving even greater performance. The first range, due out in October, will make use of a low-voltage variant of the Sandy Bridge processor.

Acer will be the first PC manufacturer to reveal their Ultrabook lineup in Australia later this week, and we’ll be there to take a close look at their offering.

The revolution starts now.

Acer Iconia A100 Honeycomb Tablet – First Look

In a couple of weeks, Acer will be releasing their latest Honeycomb tablet, the Iconia A100. This model was shown off at their tablet launch earlier in the year, but at that stage only had Froyo (Android 2.2) on board.

Honeycomb now available in bite-sized packages!

I’ve had a chance to look at a sample this week, and although the software is a beta build (as Acer has warned me up front), it was still good to have a play with the latest in major manufacturer Honeycomb releases.

Acer were one of the very first to release a Honeycomb tablet, and they’ve succeeded in setting another milestone with the A100 being the first 7 inch Honeycomb tablet.

The A100 compared to the Samsung Galaxy S II. Note the physical home button on the bottom panel.

Spec wise, it follows other Honeycomb tablets by using the now-familiar Tegra 2 processor by Nvidia. The sample shown here has 8GB storage with 1GB RAM and it appears they will have a 3G variant as well as higher capacity models available. The capacitive screen has a 1024 x 600 resolution, lower than its 10” brethren.

Even though it’s a much smaller model, it still retains many of the inputs and outputs that made the original Iconia a very user-friendly model, with Micro HDMI, Micro SD, Micro USB (see a pattern here?) as well as standard 3.5mm jack for headphones, a pretty comprehensive connectivity suite considering its size.

HDMI, USB, docking port, power and speakers

The A100 is also the first to come with Android 3.2 pre-loaded, which means a few improvements for both end users and app developers. Firstly, this update actually allows apps to be compatible and optimised to different sized tablets, so it’s a welcome update for this 7 inch model. Also, SD card support has been improved, with apps being able to access content directly from the SD card. Sounds sensible, but it has been an issue for some tablets up to this point. Then there’s the app zooming feature, which handles non-honeycomb apps in a much better way to fill the screen without looking stretched or highly pixelated.

Back to the tablet itself, from a design point of view it’s definitely small and light enough to carry in one hand for long periods of time. This size tablet does lend itself more to being carried in a small handbag or even a jacket pocket. Unfortunately the cameras weren’t operational on this model but they are 2MP on front and 5MP on back. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this at a later stage.

Camera and wave pattern on back panel.

Flash content on websites worked well; I visited the video section of the smh.com.au website and was able to play videos directly on the page, one of the big drawcards for Android.

Flash video playback was quite smooth.

Google Body, one of the first Honeycomb apps to appear on the Android Marketplace, presented and responded well to zooming and rotating. The AccuWeather app seemed to have some issues with resizing to fit the smaller screen, but as Acer did explain that this was very much a preproduction unit, I’ll take another look when a retail unit becomes available.

Do 7 inch tablets have a place among all the other mobile entertainment and communication alternatives we have? At the right price in comparison to 10 inch models, I think they do. They are more mobile as opposed to portable, and offer a good screen size for reading, are very easy to carry and hold for extended periods, and are a better gaming/movie watching experience than a smaller smartphone. As with anything else in this category, content is king, and I’m sure we’ll see manufacturers and developers come up with some enticing reasons to use a 7 inch tablet in addition to a smartphone, which many would argue is really a smaller version of a tablet in function.

Full back panel of the A100.

While I haven’t had the opportunity to take the A100 solidly through its paces yet, it is another indication of the diversity that Android can bring to the table when it comes to hardware design and size.

Are you interested in a 7 inch tablet? Would you buy one for yourself, or as a gift for someone else? Feel free to comment below.

Acer A500 Iconia Tablet – Unboxing and Overview

Acer were the first to release a Honeycomb tablet to the general retail market, and as I mentioned in a previous blog post, they set the benchmark for the type of inputs and outputs one could previously only wish for on a tablet – mini and full size USB, HDMI, and SD Card slot are all built into the body of the A500.

One comment that I’ve noticed lately from customers is the lack of embedded 3G in the Iconia, as opposed to some of the other tablets now available in the market, particularly those offered by telcos. One thing many people don’t realise is that if they own a late model iPhone or Android phone, and have updated to the latest phone firmware, they can now take advantage of their phone’s 3G internet connection by turning on the personal hotspot function.

This allows the Iconia to find the phone as a Wi-Fi access point, and use the phone’s plan for any browsing or downloads through the tablet. Many people have a home landline account, home internet account and a 3G phone account, and don’t want yet another plan – this is an easy way to share the bandwidth available on your smartphone.

During the filming of the unboxing video that we produced for Bing Lee, we tried streaming video via a phone hotspot, and there was some buffering at the beginning of the clip but it played smoothly after that – we did have full signal strength so I’m sure that helped. Of course, you wouldn’t always be streaming video, other online activities would include downloading email, browsing the net, and using apps that require online updates.

So, who out there has been using an Acer Iconia, and how has your experience been with it so far? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s the unboxing video:

Asus Eee Pad Transformer – Unboxing and Overview

The “first look” article I wrote earlier this year for the Asus Transformer tablet has become the most popular post on this site, and now we’ve produced a video for Bing Lee that covers the tablet and its unique keyboard dock in detail.

After spending a lot of time with this unit, the keyboard attachment makes a lot of sense for extended writing and input-heavy tasks. When separated from the keyboard/battery/dock, the Transformer tablet on its own is still a very impressive and well-designed device.

With Acer showing the way in terms of inputs and accessibility with its Iconia tablet, Asus have carved its own niche by way of innovation and adding features that we may not have thought we needed. Once you start using the Transformer with the keyboard, it definitely becomes second nature, and points to an even broader appeal with its netbook-like appearance and functionality.

The Transformer has also now been the recipient of the first Android Honeycomb update, from 3.0 to 3.1. Some of the improvements include the ability to add peripherals like mice, keyboards; resizing widgets to make your home screens even more customisable; attach digital cameras and manage content to and from them; and the ability to use VOIP and other audio streaming services. This progression takes the Honeycomb OS a step further in cementing it as a real alternative for tablet devices.

For your enjoyment, here’s our detailed run-through of the Asus Transformer:

Acer “Iconia” Android Honeycomb Tablet – First Look

We had our first chance to get up close and personal with Acer’s slim and shiny new tablet-based products amongst the bulky, low-tech relics of our country’s seafaring history within the Maritime Musuem at Darling Harbour, Sydney. Acer are serious about this category and had many variations on show – a 5 inch smart phone, a 7 inch and 10 inch Honeycomb tablet, a 10 inch Windows 7 netbook with detachable touch screen, and a dual 14″ touch screen notebook that deserves a blog piece on its own.

Mr Touchbook, we'll be coming back to have a closer look at you soon.

The product that we’re focussing on in this blog is the one that Acer will be launching as their first foray into the highly prized tablet market. This one is the A500, a 10″ tablet with the Android 3.0 operating system. This is exciting for us, as it’s the first iteration of the tablet-specific OS from Google that we’re playing with.

Looks kinda nice even when it's turned off.

First, the product itself. It weighs 700 grams and feels quite sturdy and solid in the hands. Acer have definitely not tried to emulate the iPad design, with a more notebook inspired form – it actually appears like a monitor off a classy netbook, which isn’t a bad thing. It has a nice streamlined design that keeps the overall aesthetic simple and easy to handle. In landscape, the top and bottom edges are framed by a brushed metal finish that continues all the way around the back, where the logo sits in centre.

Speakers, Camera and all-important Logo.

To the right of the logo is the 5MP camera that is also capable of taking 720p video. At the top of the unit are the volume controls and orientation lock. Next to them are the micro SD card and 3G slot, the latter of which is available if the model is a 3G variant.

Instant storage expansion - just add a dash of SD.

There are plenty of I/O ports – on the right there is a full sized and mini-USB port, on the bottom a docking connector for an upcoming accessory that charges and connects to other devices. On the left hand side there is a headphone jack and a mini-HDMI. The front frame also encases a front facing 2MP camera. The capacitive screen is bright and smoothly responsive.

To make it easy for users to start using the Iconia without delay, Acer have designed a group of 4 areas where there are preloaded apps and more can be added. These are labelled eReading, Game Zone, Multimedia, and Social Network, these being the most obvious groupings for common activities on the tablet. The plus sign on each page allows you to add more apps into each area as you see fit.

Acer's own customised grouping system - simple and attractive.

Now, the big question, how does Android 3.0 perform on the 10″ Iconia? Honeycomb, as Android 3.0 is commonly known, is an exciting alternative to the benchmark tablet system. As an environment to manage apps, which is really what you want in a tablet offering, Honeycomb is highly customisable. Widgets are a defining feature for this version of Android, with enough landscape for many of your favourite widgets, which are similar to those on a desktop, offering dynamic, updated information in small, bite-sized panels.

What Honeycomb is all about - making it your own.

At the time of publication, there were still only a small but growing number of tablet-specific apps on the Android marketplace. Developers have most likely been waiting for Android and manufacturers to release new products so they can see some return in creating these new apps. So far, I’ve tried a few – Flixster, CNN News, Google Body and DrawFree. They all make good use of the screen real estate and are intuitive in layout and touch-use.

Great - another reason to ignore eating and showering. Who needs to watch movies when you can read about them all day?

Of course, tablet apps are huge business for Apple, and the massive installed consumer base they have means developers are falling over themselves to deliver apps of every kind. As the likes of Acer, Asus, Toshiba and others begin to roll out their Android tablet products, we should see a snowball effect in tablet-optimised apps to deliver even more value to users.

Android 3.0 opens up a huge world of possibilities for different form factors, OS skins and customisation that will provide users with choice and innovation. Each manufacturer has an opportunity to make a big technology statement here, not just for development’s sake, but for the customer’s touch screen experience. Acer are first out of the gates and it’s an impressive start to a year of Honeycomb launches.

We’ll be doing a full unboxing demo video of the Acer A500 Iconia in the near future, so thanks for reading and we’ll be back soon.

2nd Generation Intel Core Models Have Landed

It’s exciting times in the PC industry. AMD are rolling out their new Fusion products, Android Honeycomb is set to be launched on a raft of new tablets, and Intel’s latest generation of Core Processors are finally being launched, after a recall that delayed the release of new notebooks across all brands.

This week, Bing Lee took delivery of the first two iterations of the new Intel range. We’ll be doing a full unboxing of both notebooks in the near future, but in the meantime here’s some brief specs and pictures to whet your appetite.

First up is the Samsung QX412, which replaces the QX310. It features a Gen 2 i5 processor, 1GB graphics card, HDMI output, DVD burner, and Samsung’s 3 second boot-up feature.

One of the impressive aspects of this model is the increase of the screen size to 14″ while using the same overall design from last year that used a 13.3″ screen, so it makes better use of the real estate – it really is a 14″ screen in a 13.3″ notebook chassis. The top lid is a cool-looking metal black, and reveals a silver/chrome surface on the keyboard area when opened. It’s definitely a style-setting notebook, with a great combination of looks and performance.

Also launched is the Acer AS5750G, which is our first Gen 2 quad core model. This notebook is all about grunt. The 2GHz quad core processor turbo boosts to 2.9GHz, and is backed up by a massive 2GB graphics card, 4GB memory and 640GB hard drive.

Other features include a 15.6″ screen, HDMI output and numeric keypad. It’s also one of the first notebooks to feature the new high speed USB 3.0 port, which can transfer files between it and a USB 3.0 storage device by over 10 times the speed of a standard USB 2.0.

The release of these models are a pleasant surprise as most Gen 2 models aren’t due out until April or May. We’re looking forward to taking both these models through their paces and presenting more details in the near future.